Xbox Live has been around for almost 19 years, existing all the way back during the era of the original Xbox console. Since then, plenty of changes have been made to the service. In 2005, the paid subscription service was referred to as Xbox Live Gold, and there was also a free Silver tier available.
Xbox Live Silver was eventually made redundant, and it was instead referred to as just Xbox Live. However, even the name of "Xbox Live" is being changed, as this free tier (along with the other online services Xbox provides) will now be referred to as Xbox Network. Xbox Live Gold will not be receiving a name change.
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Xbox's online services changing is not at all surprising. Just a few months ago, the company announced plans to double the price of Xbox Live Gold. However, this received so much backlash that Xbox quickly rescinded its claims and apologized for "missing the mark."
Xbox Live being changed to Xbox Network is a far less drastic shift, especially since Xbox Live Gold will seemingly remain the same. However, it could imply a few things.
It's likely that Microsoft wants to distinguish the two services from one another. Over the past few years, Xbox has been expanding its platform reach with Xbox Game Pass on PC, and xCloud on mobile and TV. Xbox Live Gold exclusively exists within the Xbox console ecosystem, and since the term "Xbox Live" is notoriously associated with a yearly subscription for online services, it's smart to ensure that name isn't associated with platforms where that paywall isn't present.
Referring to it as the Xbox Network might alleviate some worry that the subscription service would be present on PC and other platforms where xCloud and Xbox Game Pass are available.
Additionally, plenty of rumors have been circulating which suggest that Microsoft will either merge Xbox Live Gold with Xbox Game Pass or get rid of Xbox Live Gold entirely. While this change could be a long ways away, it will be far easier to implement now that the standard, non-subscription services are being referred to as Xbox Network.
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Self-described art critic and unabashedly pretentious, Momo finds joy in impassioned ramblings about her closeness to video games. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism & Media Studies from Brooklyn College and five years of experience in entertainment journalism. Momo is a stalwart defender of the importance found in subjectivity and spends most days overwhelmed with excitement for the past, present and future of gaming. When she isn't writing or playing Dark Souls, she can be found eating chicken fettuccine alfredo and watching anime.